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Men of the Koi Dynasty celebrate 15 years

HANAPEPE — When the West Kaua‘i Hongwanji temple gong signals the start of obon festivities on Friday evening, the gong will also announce the 15th anniversary of the Men of the Koi Dynasty doing bon dance.

The West Kauai Hongwanji Hanapepe temple is also a significant part of the Men of the Koi Dynasty since it is the home temple of the late Mrs. Aiko Nakaya whom the Men of the Koi Dynasty approached to ask her to teach the group of men to dance the bon dance.

Additionally, Rev. Tomo Hojo, who is one of two Buddhist ministers that is the Men of the Koi Dynasty, is the resident minister of West Kaua‘i Hongwanji Mission.

Alton Miyamoto of the Men of the Koi Dynasty said once upon a time, many men and women participated in the bon dance wearing the required yukata.

The number of people participating started to slowly decline, especially the men. To counter the decline, dress codes were relaxed, and that increased participation among the women — not the men.

“In 2008, we asked the late Mrs. Aiko Nakaya (if) she would be willing to teach some men to bon dance,” Miyamoto said.

“The group of men consisted of a diverse group from various ethnic and religious backgrounds. Eleven men started weekly practice in October 2008, learned the 17 dances for the season, and were ready to dance in the 2009 bon dance season.”

Miyamoto said the men selected the name “The Men of the Koi Dynasty,” and donned a black and white happi coat emblazoned with a large red and white koi on the back.

“The men had their debut at the Koloa Jodo Mission bon dance that was held on June 5 and 6, 2009,” Miyamoto said. “Thanks to Mrs. Nakaya’s patient style of teaching, the men enjoyed dancing while understanding the meaning of bon dance.”

Of note, Mrs. Nakaya passed away, and the Jodo Mission temples in Koloa and Kapa‘a are not included in the Kaua‘i Buddhist Council calendar of bon dances.

“That patient style of teaching also started the West Kaua‘i Hongwanji Mission’s beginner bon dance practicer where only true beginners were allowed to attend our practice sessions,” Miyamoto said.

“The groups were smaller and allowed us to give individual attention to those that needed a little more encouragement. The beginner bon dance classes led to a significant increase of men and women of all ages, ethnic and religious backgrounds to experience the joy of bon dance.”

In 2010, with the encouragement of Mrs. Nakaya, The Men of the Koi Dynasty started to perform in the intermission entertainment for the bon dance.

“These were special dances taught by Mrs. Nakaya,” Miyamoto said. “Today, Michiko Hirao of the Waimea Shingon Mission carries on the legacy of Mrs. Nakaya.”

Michiko’s husband, Rev. Kohtoku Hirao, is the second Buddhist minister who is part of The Men of the Koi Dynasty. Rev. Hirao also participates in taiko.

“This is the 15th anniversary since the group’s first performance,” Miyamoto said. “While some of the founding members no longer dance, we have slowly grown, and now consist of 22 men, two of whom are Buddhist ministers.”

The Men of the Koi Dynasty, performing during the first bon dance of 2024 at the Waimea Higashi Hongwanji, will be performing this weekend at the West Kaua‘ Hongwanji Hanapepe temple bon dance.

The group is also scheduled to participater at the Lihu‘e Hongwanji Mission bon dance on July 19 and at the Waimea Shingon Mission on Aug. 3.
Source: The Garden Island

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